After stifling a rebellion and slaying your opponents to the throne, what else is there to do? According to Shakespeare, you commiserate on themes of life and death while making a lot of sex and fart jokes. Brave Spirits Theatre manages to bring the humor to the second part of their Henri IV Repertory while keeping the heart and emotion of the piece.
Following the death of Hotspur, Queen Henri IV (Annette Mooney Wasno) begins to fall ill in accordance with a prophecy handed down prior to her ascension to the throne. Falstaff (Karen Lange) is also feeling the pangs of her age as her carousing catches up to her. Meanwhile, the Archbishop of York (James T. Majewski) plots to continue the rebellion against the Queen that was previously led by Hotspur. It is just another day in the English monarchy.
Directed by Kevin Finkelstein, the cast of 12 tackles the second part of the Henri IV repertory with both aplomb and humor. Because this section of the play is not as action-packed as the first, it relies on the cast to bring the story’s potential to fruition. With performers portraying at least three characters, each actor makes the most of every moment on stage to make this more philosophical work more appealing.
Simple designs across the board allow for a sharper focus on the story, which at times can be a little confusing. Lighting by Jason Aufdem-Brinke and sound by Sarah O’Halloran deftly set the mood and period of the show while Megan Behm as fight choreographer creates some great bar fights that left the audience in stitches. The simple set by Rachael Knoblauch, composed of a variety of actor’s blocks, was used to create shapes from a throne to a cross. Kat Fleshman’s costumes help to establish the recurring characters from Part 1 as well as create the new characters in Part 2.
After seeing Part 1 last week, I did not think that the acting performances could be surpassed. After seeing Part 2 tonight, it would seem that I spoke too soon. Everyone proved last week that they could leave the audience laughing. Tonight, they proved that they could run the entire spectrum from humor to tears. Annette Mooney Wasno as Queen Henri IV and Sarah Anne Sillers as her daughter Prince Hallie had me speechless with their final scene together in which the line of succession is handed down. This magnificent scene was worth the price of admission.
For those of us who continue to complain about the vast amount of problems we face as members of a first world country, remember that we do not hold the lives of an entire country in our power. Even if we had the power to control an entire country, we could not escape the ultimate end: death. Henri IV, Part 2 is a brilliant reminder that life goes on and waits for no one, not even queens.
Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes, with one intermission.
‘Henri IV Part I’: The Re-Gendered Henry IV Repertory at Brave Spirits Theatre reviewed by Katie Bogdan.